Game Hooks?

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    Posted: 02 Sep 2002 at 8:29am
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What brands and styles are you guys using on your lure rigs?...shackles?..single stiff?..swinging single?..double 60 or 180 degree?..or any other variations on this theme?...also what is your hook-up percentage rate like with the system you are using?
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Kerren, I certainly don't claim to have a stellar hookup ratio, this season on Blues it was 33% which was down from approximately 40% last year and on the whiteys in summer, 66% although taking the season as a whole it would be 40% or less as we missed several fish during the run of whiteys in spring with our hookup ratio being particularly bad compared to the number of shots as they'd often take multiple shots at the lure.  (I'm fairly sure that our improvement later in the season was due to experimentation with lures and hooks, as the fish seemed to behave the same.)  Anyway here's what I fished this season:

Blue marlin lures 13" and up: Two hook 180 degree stiff, hole drilled in the back of lure head, crimp wrapped with tape and jammed into the head to lock the hooks in place.  The lures just seemed to swim the best with this rig, I know the free swinging rear hook is popular in Kona but I personally had problems with it cocking back and affecting the lure track.  I tried 0 degrees as recommended by Chris Hall in the "Blue Thunder" article but the lures I tried it on spun like helicopters, guess it doesn't work for me.   We used either 12/0 front and 11/0 rear on larger heads and 11/0s or 10/0s in smaller heads, in retrospect I'd like to have used larger hooks as the boats using larger hooks this season seemed to get better hookups and more fish to the boat.   I'd also like to experiment with single hook rigs as the one skipper that went to stiff-rigged single hook this season did very well, something like 66% or better, which meant that he caught more than we did despite getting fewer bites, very telling when you look back at the end of season and take stock... 

White marlin lures: very simple, anything 6 1/2" skirt size or smaller got a single 7/0 O'Shaughnessey hook free swinging on a perfection loop tied on 130# leader, 7 3/4" size lures got a slightly bigger hook crimped onto 150 to 200# leader but this size lure did not hook up as well as the smaller lures and the best hookups came on the real small 5 3/4" size mini peanuts and plungers and tiny feather jigs with 60# leader and 6/0 hook.  Lures intended for white marlin are fished behind a 9" orange tuna bird.

The more fish I see though, the more I'm convinced that the attitude of the individual fish makes the hookup more than the lure rig or drag etc...we've all seen fish so aggressive that they made repeat strikes after missing the hookup, sometimes even after pulling drag, until they finally got hooked up, the only way NOT to have caught a fish like that would have been to remove the hooks.  The way I see it is roughly this - if you get a fish that attacks the lure aggressively, takes the lure cleanly and turns away from the boat there's an excellent chance he's going to be hooked up, even if the hook point(s) are relatively blunt, many boats I fished alongside this year caught very good fish on hooks ranging from moderately sharp to downright blunt (unsharpened).  Likewise, if you get one that bill-whacks the lure once and doesn't come back, or one that attacks from the side, roughs up the head and three feet of leader in front of the lure whilst the tape wrapped around the hooks remains clean, it's safe to assume (I think) that the hooks were nowhere near the fish. 

Thinking about it, I rate the following three factors as making a big difference in hookups, additional to rigs and drags:

1. Lure selection and action, tuning the lure to work perfectly to get the most aggressive strikes

2. Reacting to the fish when it can be seen behind a lure but doesn't take, basically the ability of skipper and crew to induce a less aggressive fish to bite, or allow a fish that's trying but for whatever reason can't seem to take the lure.  Easing off the throttle to let the fish catch the lure has been very effective for us, I find it amazing how often the bite comes as the boat slows down, other skippers prefer to accelerate or turn,

3. Related to the above, I guess- Reacting to the fish after a knock down or missed strike, often the fish is still behind the boat, being able to pull off a second or third strike, this won't always happen but is well worth trying your best to pull it off, since it makes such a difference to turn a missed bite into a hookup, especially if it's your only shot of the day. 

One final thought: I'm not fully convinced that fish are invariably spooked by crunching down on a hard lure or even the prick of a hook point (they do bite down on spiny critters and I wonder whether they even have much feeling in their mouth area as it's so hard), what I think really spooks them is drag applied through a hook (I think that's why you can pull very hard on a fish chewing on a hookless teaser, because they feel it's the bait trying to get away, rather than pulling on them via a hook).  That's why I really prefer to hit them with serious drag only when they've taken the lure and are heading away from the boat.  I guess a fish hitting from the side will be in a position to get hit with drag very quickly but one that is attacking from behind IMO needs to be allowed to take the lure and turn its head before heavier drag is applied to set the hook, that's where lure fishing isn't that different to bait fishing and some of the skills of bait fishing ie spotting the fish come into play...Bart Miller writes about missing a few strikes during his recent stint at Crooked Island, Bahamas and dropping DOWN from 12-15# of trolling drag to 6# and getting better hookups...

anyway that's just my thoughts, look forward to a big round of debate...

cheers dustin

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote obald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2002 at 11:55am
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Strewth Dustin - I feel that anything I may add to that lot will be very inadequate! BUT with a hook up ratio of >60% last season I am about 50/50 stiff two hook and single swinging.

For larger lures (10inch plus) I WAS all stiff 2 with 10/0, 11/0/ or 12/0 pairs (identical in each pair and obviously matched to head size using the common 'head fits in the gape of the hook' formula) running at 60 degrees. I shackle the hooksets to the leaders in the usual way. I still use this when running a Pakula spread and am satisfied enough with the results not to change it - until it starts letting me down. Last summer we had Bill Hall on my boat for a day. The night before I said to my mate that the first thing that would happen in the morning would be that all my hook sets would be taken to bits and we would be running single swinging for the day - right in one. Bill runs a single through a flemish eye crimped into the leader itself and spaced so the eye of the hook is approx 1cm inside the lure skirt. Hookup rate with this system on my boat is 100% - ie one strike one fish (I realise that this has the statistical power much loved by the tabloid press!)

For smaller lures (9inch and less) I have used single stiff with the leader going direct the hook. My records are not good enough (will be from now on) to give any idea of hook up rates here.

Interesting to note that boards like this have a function I am only just realising. By writing things down, it actually makes you think about what you are doing - there is not an awful lot of logic in what I have been taking as 'that's the way you do it'. 'If it ain't broke don't fix it'- sure but don't assume that what you are doing can't be improved. GOOD STUFF - KEEP IT COMING

One final point is that I completely cover the wire and crimps on my hooksets  with shrink wrap and it is mandatory that this is changed at least once a season and any maintainance undertaken - usually change the whole lot. Took them all down last W/E and the corrosion underneath is not incinsiderable - silly to loose a fish for 50 cents worth of wire and a little time in the off season.

Obald

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote dustin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2002 at 1:23pm
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Obald, thanks for reading the longwinded rant...anyway, you asked me to keep it coming, so here goes...

I can frankly say I don't like the idea of a stiff rigged set of hooks shackled to a leader, as what Bart Miller, I believe, calls a "broken elbow" seems to defeat the purpose of a stiff rig, ie for the hooks to be fixed in position whilst trolling.  I don't think there is a single professional skipper at Madeira who rigs his lures like this, but, not only is your hookup percentage better than mine, I well recall just before I left, the owner of a well known American tackle catalogue and one of his buddies fished on another boat, using a bunch of lures rigged with 180 stiff rigs crimped onto the leaders with no tape or heat shrink to stiffen up the rig - additional to this I don't think the hook rigs were even toothpicked in position and horror of horrors, I didn't think they were that sharp either! - but their very first day out, bang they got hit and released a terrific 850# blue on one of these "broken elbow" rigs, which I think goes to show that the attitude of the fish is at least as important as what the "other party" is trying to do in the way of rigs and drags...

For me, at the moment, I'm most interested in finding the optimum hook size for the fish I'm chasing: too big and you run the risk of getting billwrapped, too small and they may not get around the jaw (????) (I have a feeling this is more of a factor with blues, as whites definitely seem to have a softer mouth- I've caught them on hooks as small as Owner 5/0 - in one case the hook went right through the bill about halfway up the bill and other times 6/0 hooks have dug deep into the lower jaw bone), our success on the whiteys in the later part of the year was, I'm convinced, due to the fact that we found the right size hooks and lures.  Smaller hooks definitely seem to catch the bill and jaw of a white marlin better than large ones and the thinner the hook the easier it penetrates.  I used the long shank O'Shaughnesseys because they were the only suitably sized hooks available on the boat and was aware they were in theory the wrong shape but they certainly hooked up well, I think partly because of the fine wire and very sharp points, and partly because the fish tended to swallow the small lures and the six pound trolling drag allowed them to take the lure and turn before the drag was then stepped up to, uh, seven pounds to set the hook.   When they're running fast and you increase drag, boy does the hook go in well!  Incidentally, for these small lures, the hook ended up as close behind the lure head as the perfection loop knot would allow, I kinda wanted the hook to be inside the mouth when the fish ate the lure, kinda like a natural bait...

Scale up the quarry to blue marlin and I think the principles are similar but everything is bigger...looking back at this season, I still think that what we were doing re rigs and drags was basically sound and feel the number of missed bites on blues was primarily due to having raised a number of less aggressive fish (knock downs, zips that didn't come back, fish that hit the lure ahead of the hooks) although on one occasion we had a fairly hot 700# class fish attempt to eat the long flat line, a Zulu Impi, twice - clearly seeing her mouth open up as she tried to eat the lure, missed the first time (I saw her turn away, just as though she too thought that she'd caught the lure, before she realized she hadn't and came back again) second time around the lure came up for air just as she attacked it.  She didn't come back.  Incidentally, though I didn't do it at the time, so convinced was I that she'd get hooked up the second time round, in retrospect I ought to have simply dropped the lure back into her mouth - which kinda brings me back to my feeling that the crew or angler's ability to get a hookup on the second or third shot following a missed bite can potentially make a big difference...

I guess I'm starting to sound like a broken record here so I had better stop but for one final observation: there's nothing like a bunch of hot fish to help you find out what works, or, improve your success with what you're working with.  We improved a lot on white marlin over a ten day period where they were hitting on a regular basis, not covered up mind you, but a steady one to three shots per day.  The blues, on the other hand, if you got more than one shot a week you were on fire - not really the ideal situation for finding out whether you were doing the right thing, or correcting your mistakes...

cheers dustin

ps. ex-deckhand's tip: Use tape to wrap your hooks stiff rather than heat shrink - that way after the tape gets torn up by a good fish, you unwrap it and check your rigs for corrosion at the same time

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote obald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2002 at 5:01pm
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Bart's 'bent elbow', which I hadn't heard before (on SCMO perhaps - I find his postings, although very authoritive and based on truckloads of experience, sometimes very stodgy and I give up before I come to the meat!) is a classic eaxample of accepting something as true because one had only bothered to listen to one side of an argument. I had assumed the shackle rig was the biz for stiff rigs because a) I'd had reasonable succes with it and b) I had therefore not bothered giving 'really stiff' a second thought - I have now 

Leading on from that is your final point about having enough strikes and hookups to really get a feel as to whether you are doing as well as you could. I had a period last season where I went 12 days in a row without a strike (not the only one I hasten to add) and whilst trying many things to try and increase the number of fish at the boat, converting strikes to hookups did not get much of a try out!

I also take your point entirely about 'fish factors' related to hook ups. Your comments about different billfish species are interesting (likewise your thoughts on the feeding pattern differences between billfish and tuna in the thread on lure colours). I feel at the moment my best shot of increasing the number of red and white 'T' flags on the riggers is putting myself  in the position where 'the only way of NOT hooking up is to remove the hooks from the lures' more often. At my own personal end of season debrief last year, I came to the conclusion that most of the content of this thread and other things discussed on this and  similar boards (which you may have gathered I thoroughly enjoy - especially when you can't be doing it for real) are pretty much secondary to finding fish in making that big step up from catching a few billfish per season (me) and catching them regularly (wannabe me!). I, and a few others who contibute to this board, fished a tournament up North last March. It was won by a wellknown charter boat in a manner that could only be described as giving the rest of the fleet a good hiding. I thought I'd done well with one T & R on the first morning. The ability to find fish consistently over the next four days by the winner (and pretty much no-one else) relegated my fish to where I am loathe to admit it belongs  - pure fluke. I'm wandering off the subject so I'll shut up - but fascinating as this thread  is, I'm sure my next big leap forward is being in the right place at the right time.

Obald

PS tape vs shrink wrap point well taken - another example of assuming the status quo is the best and only way!

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Barrie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2002 at 5:17pm
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I cant wait to understand what the hell you guys are talking about ...come on Kerrens do on the 28th....Im not kiddin at all
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Kerren Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2002 at 5:24pm
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Bravo Dustin, Bravo Obald!...bloody interesting stuff and this thread is a real joy to read!!...

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote dustin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sep 2002 at 12:52am
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Hi Obald,

Don't be hard on yourself losing out to a charterboat.  It's their job to find and catch fish and they'd better be good at it.  Charterboats have a great deal going for them in terms of finding the fish - they're normally on the grounds every day in season, they'll normally have fished the grounds for days in advance and have a handle on what is happening with regard to fish movements, water colour, current etc., superior electronics (usually) and finally, I'm sorry to say but the fish sense of the average charterboat crew ought to significantly exceed that of the average weekender, otherwise everyone would be doing it! 

That being said I think skilled private boats have a number of advantages over charterboats, more skilled anglers than many charter clients, no need to worry about keeping charter hours, you can stay out as long as you please which can be deadly when it comes to fish like Wahoo which in our waters, the longer you can stay out the better the chances are of getting a bite.  One of the best private boats in our marina this season caught in excess of 90 Big Eye that's more than many charterboats including us. 

When it comes to finding the fish I feel information is the most lethal tool you can have.  There are two charterboats in our area that have relatives on board the commercial tuna pole boats and it got frustrating at times to see them very often getting onto the fish before anyone else did.  This information wasn't so effective on marlin but boy did it help on tuna.  The more experienced eyes you have out there working for you the better.  Add to that your own instinct and experience and you're hunting rather than hoping. 

I find logging every fish caught (where when how) and other related info ie. wind and current direction, sea conditions, moon phase tide change temperature bait other sightings (birds dolphins whales mantas + fish caught by other boats) etc. kinda helps sometimes as the same patterns can sometimes repeat themselves over a season and sometimes you can be in a position to anticipate what's happening and make hay out of it...Obviously the usefulness of keeping a log is directly proportional to the amt. of time you spend out on the water (and if you're incorporating other boats' reports, how reliable THEY are) but it's still quite therapeutic to go over your notes and relive past glories...

cheers, dustin 

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Joseph Lau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sep 2002 at 10:04am
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Ditto Barrie. Been following this thread but feels like I'm in La-La land. I have got the seminar tickets so would be all ears then....
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote obald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Sep 2002 at 10:14pm
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Meanwhile back at the hooks.....

Having established that there are more ways of killing a weasel than pissing in its earhole, I'd like a few thoughts on what effect rigging has on a specific lure's action. This is another area, now that I am in a pre season spiritual cleansing mode, I find I have given scant attention to. After the thoughts on this thread and a long discussion with a another lure nutter last night I realise my 'shackle, 2  hook , shrink wrapped stiff rig' on nearly everything is probably doing most (all?) of my lures a great disservice in the action department. Pakula makes great play on how you should make a shackle rig for his lures ( you get a diagram on the back of each packet and he will even sell you a ready made rig if you so desire) and I even ignore this advice - I'm probably killing a great deal of those lures' action. How about other makers products? Will a stiff rig jammed in the head of a Bart (or a Williamson or a Hooker or a Big T or Hollowpoint or a ....) ruin the action it is supposed to have? Will changing to a single hook (stiff or swinging) restore the desired wiggle,dive, bubble trail etc? How would you know? I would make a bold prediction that the answer to all the above is going to be 'try it and see'!

One thing that is very apparent from what has come out of this thread so far is that I have a few hours in the garage ahead of me making new hooksets that are NOT all the same, taped and NOT shrinkwrapped, NOT all shackled, NOT all wired, NOT all double hooked, double hooks NOT all at 60 degrees etc. They are then going to be put on a variety of lures and dragged around piscine deserts in the off season (i.e. now) in an attempt to get a better understanding of changing what gives what effect - then I can start changing leader size, boat speed, lure postion relative to the transom, different sea states...... Then after lunch....

Obald

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote dustin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Sep 2002 at 2:12pm
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Obald, I thought I'd wait a while before replying, since I felt a little embarrassed about all these marathon posts...but anyway...

When I'm rigging a lure I basically want to retain the lure's original action.  In other words definitely no spinning or veering off course and the lure should pretty much swim the same as it does when run with no hooks (not a bad idea if you need to find out how a lure is meant to swim).   I also want to avoid tangles or foul-ups. 

I find most larger slant face lures have an aggressive or consistent enough action that you need to do something pretty silly to screw them up.  Leader, skirting and positioning, IMO, have more effect on these large baits.  I like the stiff hook 180 rig mainly cos just about every lure I've tried it with seems to swim well and it doesn't foul.   At Madeira the conditions can be quite variable in that one area can be almost flat but say the last couple miles back to harbour you can be running against a short choppy sea.  It's usually not so bad that you need to change lures but I've occasionally had free swinging hooks foul up on me in these conditions, so I tend to prefer a stiff rig.  That being said, I've seen other rigs used on other boats with success including two hook 12/0 rigs with free swinging rear hooks run at 60 degrees which the lures carried surprisingly well (I thought).  The one rig I can't get to work in slant face heads is 0 degrees stiff.  But it's quite possible I just haven't got the hang of it yet. 

I despise toothpicks, personally.  I've found it enormously aggravating when a hookrig that was supposed to be toothpicked firmly into position starts creeping out of place.  Drill out the back of the lure head a tiny little bit larger than your leader crimp, wrap the crimp with tape and jam it tight into the lure head and the hook(s) will NEVER move. 

I don't use cup face lures a lot myself but if I was using em I'd rig them according to Pakula's specifications. 

I find the smaller lures can be more sensitive to hooks and especially leader so it can be worth tinkering around till you find the right combination.  For the 7 3/4" to 12" max lures we fish at Phuket for smallish black marlin I've mainly used two hooks and a free swinging rear hook, for whatever reason foul-ups aren't such a problem with these smaller baits.  Black marlin, I find come in on lures quite aggressively, we've had a good hookup rate on those, about 75% raised fish to hookups, and most of those got hooked on the first shot with little messing around.  Good-sized sails come up on the lures as well and seem to hookup reasonably well, especially on smallish lures with smaller hooks, although it's fairly common for them to unhook themselves as they tend to be a little crazy during the first several seconds. 

I've fished lures with single hooks and feel that if you make the right adjustments you ought to be able to get the same lure with two hooks to swim just as sweetly.  But I'm interested in giving stiff rigged singles a better try for blue marlin after seeing another skipper switch over this season and get very good results.  Bart states that the fish can grab the lure in the middle and not get spooked by the front hook which makes a lot of sense to me, although I still have this suspicion that it isn't feeling the hook in itself but feeling drag through the hook (ie getting bitten back) that really spooks a fish. 

cheers, dustin

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Fishb8 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Sep 2002 at 7:59pm
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I have to start with a disclaimer:- I don't call myself an expert or even experienced.

My preference is for single hooks. Two reasons; they are safer and they hook-up well ( I suppose cheaper too but that's 3 reasons). The size I use is larger than regular lure-head size choice. Like Obald, I heat-shrink from the leader thimble to the hook shank. This gives a stiff rig. The hook is set with the point upwards. Hooker lure, with their locating slots, make this easy. Dustin's method is a good way of securing hook into other lures. Obald has made a good point about corrosion under the heat-shrink. In future I will coat all the heat-shrink covered wire/hook with lanolin of cod liver oil.

The next part of the single hook plan is to set the lures with minimum drag. Once a strike occurs, allow the fish to take line, don't slow the boat. This has the added benefit a a second strike. After about 30 seconds of reel screaming, push the drag up to the button. The fish will have turned and hooked itself before the drag was increased. The hooks are usually in the side of the mouth, at the top, in the base of the bill, solidly hooked. Sharp hooks, small barb.

One area of poor performance has been with very close in lures. I've had good success with a Black Magic Purple Predator (and Pakula Evil Animal) up so close that the coastlock clip is still at the rod tip. Set through an Aftco Roller Troller as light as possible, the lure have been hammered but dropped. Tried using a flat-faced outrigger clip instead of the roller troller with more sucess. On the postive side, every time the close up lure has been hit and dropped, another lure in the pattern has been hooked up. Same fish or a double lost? 

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One more thing I use long leaders - 8 metres with no double. Max double used for tackle under 10 kg.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote obald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2002 at 9:04am
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Morning Dustin, Roy et al

Thread so far has produced approaching a surfeit of quantity but more important QUALITY of information on an important, and from my side, neglected subject. I have nothing more to add at this stage (don't think I added much except queries in the first place) but have a greater theoretical understanding of the subject. As alluded to in an earlier post I am now off into the 'Test Tank' phase of the process (Auckland is the home of the America's Cup after all). I think I might be able to get access to several identical lures of different patterns for the experiments (can't/don't want to actually buy 4 identical $120 lures for arseing about) - will report back if I can come to any conclusions that either confirm or refute any of the good stuff that precedes this post. I could even pretend I'm fishing when doing it!

Obald

 

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